When the Planned Technology Does NOT Work

Yesterday I taught a session after school that failed to go off without a hitch. Luckily I was prepared to tap into my classroom experiences when similar situations occurred. As I poetically worked through issues and then tweeted about it, it became obvious that many other classroom teachers are faced with the same dilemmas. Are we preparing them to know what to do if the tech tool stops working?

There are multiple reasons why the planned tech fails. In my classroom, with every tech component networked, if the network failed…the tech didn’t work. The network failed often. In the world of ever-changing technology, your websites that you use now can be here today and gone tomorrow. App developers can submit changes to apps that kill functionality with the bat of an eye.

In other words, when you rely heavily on the inner workings of a device, app or website for instruction…things can just happen no matter how tech proficient you are.

So, what do you do?

1. Remain Calm – Attitude is everything!

I don’t get rattled when things stop working. I give it a minute or two and immediately move on the next idea. Sometimes that may mean shifting focus away from one application to another. In my session yesterday, I was training teachers on how to use educlipper. We had problems ranging from account setup to logins and physical use. Not every teacher could access their logins since they went to spam. Not every teacher could access their spam list. Once they did access it, not every teacher could complete the login process because for some reason their shift keys refused to work on the site to enter their case sensitive information. It’s kind of hard to train on a platform that you can’t access. As those issues occurred, without one sign of panic, I refocused on the intent of the session and proceeded to #2.

2. ALWAYS focus on the objective and have multiple routes to get there!

I was sharing educlipper in my session but the objective was that teachers learned how to embed collaborative curation and research into their classes. As it became apparent that educlipper would not work, I introduced google docs with research, peartrees, diigo and Pinterest. The teachers that could access Educlipper, stuck with educlipper and explored. Others latched on to their curation tool of choice. For many, these tools were new. What I found is that each catered to a teacher in a different way and that led to #3…learner choice.

3. Let your learners find the tools that work!

I asked the group what tools they used to share in and out of their classrooms. A few were using evernote while most were using Pinterest but not for classroom use. However, taking a tool that they use in their daily lives and applying the educational value to it, increases the likelihood of it being used. In the classroom, its a simple as NOT defining the app but defining the task. Let the learners choose the application. Doing this puts the “how to make it work” on them and eases the tension caused by non-working apps or tools.

4. Take it old school!

In the classroom, if the tech fails, think about how learning worked before we started plugging in. Keep a supply of poster paper and markers, including dry erase. I always had marker boards whether we used them or not. Sometimes the dead tech can be the much needed catalyst for making teachers become more facilitators than deliverers. Use the “power down” time to engage learners on what they know. When the tech comes back, remember this moment because with or without tech…we should be doing this anyway.

The bottom line is that your attitude in the face of adversity can make or break the entire outcome. Be prepared, intentional and ready to readjust swiftly.

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